The United Kingdom’s coronavirus death toll neared 50,000 on Tuesday, confirming its place as one of the worst hit countries in the world just as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to ease the stringent novel coronavirus outbreak.
The toll now stands at 49,646, including death certificate data for England and Wales released on Tuesday up to May 22, previously published figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and recent hospital deaths in England.
Such a large death toll has prompted criticism of Johnson, who opposition parties say was too slow to impose a lockdown, too slow to protect the elderly in nursing homes and too slow to build a test and trace system.
Johnson’s government says that while it may have made some mistakes it is grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak and that it has ensured the health service was not overwhelmed.
Still, the grim death toll surpasses even some projections by the government’s own scientific advisers.